Almost a decade and seven grand finals later, complacency of youth is a distant memory as James Graham attempts to add to his one taste of premiership glory.
Success has come often in Canterbury skipper Graham’s rugby league career in both England and Australia,
But grand final triumphs have been another matter.
Having played in eight season deciders, 30-year-old English international Graham has won just one.
The rugged prop played in six straight English Super League grand finals with St Helens from 2006-11, winning just the one in his first attempt.
After making the move to Australia in 2012, he played in the NRL big dance with Canterbury that year, going down to Melbourne.
Then last year the Bulldogs were defeated again as South Sydney broke their title drought.
It would be easy to imagine Graham having a chip on his shoulder about that frustrating record, but he says it neither diminishes or inflates his drive for another premiership ring.
“It was probably lost on me through the ignorance of youth,” Graham says of the importance of his 2006 triumph with St Helens.
“Playing in a successful side like St Helen’s, I probably thought a few more were going to happen but obviously they didn’t.
“But it’s something I can look back on now with a huge smile. It’s the 10-year anniversary next year.
“It’s a memory I can look back on with a huge smile and a really great sense of pride.”
Graham’s Bulldogs are just two wins away from qualifying for the 2015 decider, which would be his ninth grand final in 10 seasons.
Standing in their way this weekend are minor premiers the Sydney Roosters, who Graham says still deserve to be considered the team to beat.
The Roosters suffered their first loss in 13 starts in their qualifying final against Melbourne on the weekend and must now buck recent history if they are to claim their second title in three years.
The last side to lose week one of the NRL finals and recover to claim a grand final victory was the 2006 Brisbane team.
But Graham said the Roosters remained the competition benchmark.
“The Roosters are favourites and rightly so,” Graham said.
“They’ve been the best team all year. So why wouldn’t they be favourites?
“They ooze quality. It’s going to be a tough and full on game for us if we want to progress to next week.”
SO CLOSE YET SO FAR
How James Graham has fared in grand finals with St Helens and Canterbury
* 2006 – St Helens bt Hull 26-4
* 2007 – Leeds bt St Helens 33-6
* 2008 – Leeds bt St Helens 24-16
* 2009 – Leeds bt St Helens 18-10
* 2010 – Wigan bt St Helens 22-10
* 2011 – Leeds bt St Helens 32-16
* 2012 – Melbourne bt Canterbury 14-4
* 2014 – South Sydney bt Canterbury 30-6